No Problems At the IRS

  • Share
  • Read Later
NOW THAT THE Soviet Union has fallen, there aren't many great bureaucracies left. Which is why the first IRS Problem Solving Day last Saturday was, in the end, a rather sad occasion. No one wants to see the Revenue boys — the guys that have those militia fellas all in knots, the guys that brought down Al Capone, for gosh sakes — reduced to wearing brightly colored buttons and greeting you like the preacher in the receiving line after Sunday meeting. You want your tax service to put the fear of God into you, to be firm but fair, and for there to be Serious and Severe Consequences if you don't comply with the full extent of the tax law. You want an agent that is a stern and jealous bureaucrat. Instead, what you get is a smiling guy wearing a blue and yellow button that says "At the IRS we work for you".

To be fair, the agents have a hard row to hoe. There's just not a whole lot you can say to someone who not only refuses to pay taxes but doesn't believe your agency has the constitutional right to collect them, a defense that the resigned IRS guys say they get a lot of.

Still, you felt like shaking one of those smiling, accommodating agents and screaming "You are the Internal goddam Revenue Service of the United States Government. You are not McDonalds. Taxpayers should fear you."

Instead, we have personalized customer service of the kind provided by Dr. Herma Hightower, Northeast Regional Commissioner: "The cab driver on the way down here wanted to know if I was going to this. She had a problem with her taxes she wanted to get taken care of, so I got her number and we'll help her out." Imagine J. Edgar Hoover offering to take care of the deli guy's immigration papers.

Just like the downsized IRS, taxpayers were coming in with downsized problems. One woman was there over a disputed $100 payment. She said the agency only credited her for $75, throwing her account into default. An hour later, she returned happy, although saddled with more paperwork, and confident that her problem would be taken care of. "I'm very happy with how I was treated, and I think that everything is going to be fine." Oh, the humanity.

Deep down, we want to hate and fear the IRS. Moreover, we need to. If we didn't, we wouldn't pay them, the nation's infrastructure would crumble even faster than it already is doing, and the Canadian hordes would sweep down from Toronto to overcome our poorly paid armed forces. And when we're pretending to like Molson and sitting through marathon “Kids in the Hall” reruns, we'll know who to blame.